By Laksiri Fernando –
Jerusalem, sacred to many religions and civilizations, is virtually burning. But the international community including the United Nations are sleeping! They will jump and shout if something even small scale happens in a culturally different, third world developing country. But on the question of Palestine, they have always been ambiguous, silent, or selective.
Even the international human rights shenanigans are the same. They are more dubious and hypocritical because the issues are related to fundamental human rights violations that they talk about. That is one reason why the Israel-Palestinian or more correctly Palestinian-Israeli question has been dragging on since the arbitrary creation of Israel in 1948.
Victims Becoming Perpetrators?
Jews were the victims of terrible atrocities under fascism in Germany and similar countries leading to the Second World War. Even on the question of Jews, the then international community including the League of Nations were late and ambiguous, and to a great extent culpable. The same pattern appears to be repeating this time in the reverse order. The then victims, the Jews, now becoming the terrible perpetrators. If not fascism what kind of ‘naming’ should we attribute to the behavior of Israel today?
Among many victim communities, there are always dreadful extremisms. This is also apparent among some Palestinian groups. In the case of Jews, Zionism was/is the form of Jewish fascism. It is on this fascism that the international community is silent today. This should change and this must be changed. Otherwise, there is no solution to the Palestinian question or to the peaceful existence of Israel.
The possibility of avoiding victims becoming perpetrators is not a hypothetical question. South Africa is a positive example where this predicament was largely avoided. The good or correct behavior of the international community, on both sides of the fence, is important for this realization. Yasser Arafat in this sense was a rational and a reasonable person whatever his deviations in the young years. This cannot be said for any of the Israeli leaders and particularly of Benjamin Netanyahu.
Those who talk big about war crimes and crimes against humanity (or genocide) have always been silent about the Palestinian question and accompanied atrocities. Netanyahu should not be the PM of Israel, but an accused before the International Criminal Court. Perhaps his skin color or the political ideology is not suitable for prosecuting him before the ICC! China should perform a more proactive role on the Palestinian question.
The present escalation of conflict or more correctly atrocities started when Israel started forced evacuation of Palestinians from East Jerusalem and destroying their homes, including repeated attacks on the Al Aqsa Mosque during the Ramadan period. The reactions from Hamas and ordinary Palestinians were natural given the present and past atrocities. Nearly half a million Palestinians were expelled or evacuated when Israel was formed in 1948. Most of them became refugees in Palestinian territories and many other countries (Jordan, Lebanon etc.).
UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) was created in 1949 because of this situation. Refugees became piled up in 1956, 1967 and thereafter due to repeated atrocities. I have visited many of these refugee camps in 1980s as the World University Service (WUS) was offering scholarships and some other facilities for higher education, although modest.
East Jerusalem was never a part of Israel or Jewish settlements at least in the modern era. There was a vast difference between the Eastern and Western parts of Jerusalem as I saw them. It was very clear to see. One was extremely poor, the other was extremely rich. One was culturally Western, and the other was Eastern. One was Islam, and the other was Jewish – the Christian historical places lying in between.
It was a henious crime to forcefully annex East Jerusalem in 1967. It was more henious to claim the whole of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel since 1980. The backing of the United States, directly and indirectly, throughout years was the primary incentive for the Israel to do these atrocities. Jerusalem is one place where the Eastern and Western civilizations come into open clash with the backing of the Americans.
Hypocrisy of Joe Biden
It is nearly four year since (2017) America recognized the whole of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It is still the American official policy. It is not merely a policy of that lunatic Donald Trump. Joe Biden is merely a disguised hypocrite.
In January 2021, during his Senate confirmation, the Secretary of State Antony Blinken was asked,
“Do you agree that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and do you commit that the United States will keep our embassy in Jerusalem?”
“Yes, and Yes,” said Blinken without any blinking. His voice was Joe Biden’s.
The American Embassy is still in Jerusalem and that is where all the atrocities are endorsed. If it is not, Joe Biden should immediately call the UN Security Council and should take a decision to take over the whole of Jerusalem under the UN peacekeeping force. The UN has done so many takeovers in very many places (in Africa and Asia?) and why cannot it do the same in Jerusalem?
Proposals for Peace
History is full of ironies. Jerusalem is often interpreted as the ‘city of peace.’ However, it is not the case today or even in the past. The peace has always been robbed from the people by the rulers and politicians. I was once getting out of the King David St looking for a service taxi behind the International YMCA hotel in Jerusalem during my visits. A bomb suddenly blasted in a nearby bus and a dozen of people instantly got killed.
What does the Psalm 122:6-7 says? “Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem; May those who Love you be Secure. May there be Peace within Your Walls and Security within Your Citadels.”
Today, it is difficult to have ‘security within your citadels or peace within your walls’ for anyone, unless the UN intervenes impartially, independently, and reasonably to all. There are Jews and Palestinians, and there are Islamists and even Christians. Jerusalem is a holy place for all.
There are proposals to have Jerusalem as the capital of both Israel and Palestine, proposed undoubtedly with good intentions. However, it would be too ideal to have such a ‘cooperation’ in the immediate future given the past circumstances.
In the immediate circumstances, what is necessary is to stop missile exchanges of both sides and stop Israeli atrocities particularly the Palestinian evacuations in Jerusalem. This should be done in good faith and on a sustainable basis. Netanyahu should go. He does not have even a clear majority in Israeli Parliament. This is one reason why he is escalating the conflict and mobilizing rightwing youth to aggravate the situation.
As ‘sharing’ of Jerusalem is not practically possible, what might be necessary is for the Israel to take back its ‘artificial’ capital to Tel Aviv and allow Palestine to use Hebron or Ramallah as their capital. The whole of Jerusalem (both East and West) can be considered ‘a peace zone and a pilgrimage city’ for all religious faiths of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. It can be a combined administration under the supervision of a proper UN.